Daugh­ter de­serves ‘dig­nity of proper burial’

Mother, lead in­ves­ti­ga­tor urg­ing any­one with in­for­ma­tion to come for­ward

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - FRONT PAGE - BY ROSIE MULLALEY

Lisa Lake strug­gled to hold back tears Tues­day as she spoke about los­ing her daugh­ter, Cort­ney.

“The last five months have been noth­ing but a liv­ing hell for our fam­ily,” she said.

Lake ad­dressed the me­dia dur­ing a news con­fer­ence at RNC head­quar­ters, where po­lice up­dated re­porters in the Cort­ney Lake homi­cide in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The 24-year-old dis­ap­peared June 7 and po­lice be­lieve she was mur­dered.

“The day we found out Cort­ney had been mur­dered brought us to our knees,” her mother said.

“Some morn­ings I wake up and think, is this real? How is it pos­si­ble that Cort­ney is gone for­ever?” she said, break­ing down in tears.

“Some­times I don’t know if I can breathe, not know­ing where she could be.

“Cort­ney is missed in so many ways. A very im­por­tant part of our lives is gone. She was my only daugh­ter. … All of our fam­ily feel like some­one has cut a piece out of us, a piece that will never heal.

“Since she’s been gone, her son cel­e­brated his birth­day with­out his Mommy.

“We had Thanks­giv­ing din­ner with­out her beau­ti­ful face around the ta­ble. Cort­ney loved her Nan’s Sun­day cooked din­ner,” Lake said, again be­com­ing emo­tional. “She also loved but­ter­flies and the colour pur­ple. Christ­mas was her favourite time of year. This year will be very dif­fi­cult. I don’t know how I’ll be able to cel­e­brate Christ­mas with­out her.”

Lake paused to wipe tears and gather her­self.

“The only thing that can ease our heartache is to find Cort­ney and give her the dig­nity of a proper burial,” Lake said, her voice quiv­er­ing. “My daugh­ter de­serves that. We need that. I would love to be able to place flow­ers on her grave, to sit and talk and tell her how much I miss her and how much I love her.

“I am beg­ging to­day for any­one, any­body who can help us find Cort­ney, please, please come for­ward. As Cort­ney’s mother, I can­not ac­cept that we may never find her. I can­not ac­cept that her son will never know where his Mommy is.

“Please, I beg ev­ery­body and any­body to help us.”

As she stepped away from the podium, she got hugs from fam­ily mem­bers, who sat and held pho­tos of Cort­ney.

Be­fore Lisa Lake spoke, lead in­ves­ti­ga­tor Insp. Tom Warren told re­porters that Phillip Smith was the only sus­pect in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Smith, who was Lake’s for­mer boyfriend, was found dead in the woods at Belle­vue Beach be­hind his fa­ther’s cabin on Nov. 1. He com­mit­ted sui­cide.

Warren wouldn’t say what ex­actly led po­lice to be­lieve Smith was in­volved in the mur­der.

The last time Lake was seen was 7:54 p.m., when she was get­ting into Smith’s GMC Sierra pickup truck on Mitch­ener Av­enue near her Mount Pearl home. Po­lice had re­leased the CCTV footage show­ing her get­ting in the pas­sen­ger side.

Warren said Smith’s pickup was dis­tinc­tive, as it had a de­cal in the back pas­sen­ger side win­dow.

How­ever, be­sides the CCTV footage that had al­ready been re­leased, there was ad­di­tional footage of Smith ob­tained by po­lice, Warren said.

He said after Smith picked Lake up, the next known sight­ing of the pickup was on Ridge Road in the east end of St. John’s at 8:30 p.m. that night.

Po­lice then placed Smith in his ve­hi­cle at the Ul­tra­mar ser­vice sta­tion on Hig­gins Line the morn­ing of June 8. After he pumped gas, Smith went in­side the ser­vice sta­tion wear­ing a pair of green rub­ber boots. He paid for his gas, re­turned to his ve­hi­cle, went east-bound on Hig­gins Line and turned left onto Portugal Cove Road head­ing to­wards the di­rec­tion of the air­port, Warren said.

He said they got word from the RCMP on Nov. 1 that Smith’s body had been found at Belle­vue Beach.

Warren said in the course of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, of­fi­cers con­ducted more than 100 in­ter­views.

“I’m sat­is­fied to say that based on my re­view and speak­ing to my in­ves­tiga­tive team, I’m of the be­lief that some of these per­sons that have been in­ter­viewed have

with­held in­for­ma­tion,” Warren said.

“I’m also of the be­lief that per­sons who have been iden­ti­fied in our in­ves­ti­ga­tion have not spo­ken with my in­ves­ti­ga­tion team.”

He said some of the ev­i­dence he has re­ceived from some of the peo­ple in­ter­viewed has been “con­tra­dic­tory to factual ev­i­dence.”

Warren said there is no ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion at this point.

He wouldn’t say why they be­lieve Lake was mur­dered.

“How­ever, I will state that as of 7:54 p.m. on June 7, Cort­ney Lake has ba­si­cally went off the grid,” Warren said.

“Or­di­nar­ily, if she was away for a pe­riod of time, she would reach out to fam­ily and friends. Since June 7, there’s been ab­so­lutely no con­tact or com­mu­ni­ca­tion with any known fam­ily mem­bers or friends. There’s been no ac­cess to cel­lu­lar de­vices, her so­cial me­dia ac­counts and fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions.”

Warren also said that in early Au­gust, at provin­cial court, in an agreed state­ment of facts, Smith

ad­mit­ted he picked up Lake on June 7.

Warren said no ev­i­dence was found at the scene of Smith’s body to help of­fi­cers in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion or to lead them to Lake’s re­mains. He can’t re­lease in­for­ma­tion about whether or not he had con­tact with any­one else.

Warren said he hopes that with Smith’s death, some­body who may have felt ap­pre­hen­sive about com­ing for­ward with in­for­ma­tion when he was alive will come for­ward now.

JOE GIB­BONS/THE TELEGRAM

Lisa Lake, Cort­ney Lake’s mother, gives a state­ment at a news con­fer­ence Tues­day at the RNC’S provin­cial head­quar­ters at Fort Town­shend in St. John’s

JOE GIB­BONS/THE TELEGRAM

Fam­ily mem­bers of Cort­ney Lake hold pho­to­graphs of her Tues­day at a news con­fer­ence at RNC head­quar­ters in St. John’s.

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